John Ayers, family history and memories
Gail Herman: When did you move here, to this region, Western Maryland?
John Ayers: I was born here.
G.H.: When did your Dad move here then?
J.A.: He was born here. He was born here… well, now… Moses here, well I don't want to give you that, that was a way back. He was George Washington’s… he come down… we come from New Jersey. Moses Ayers was the first to come down, he got a grant, and he was George Washington’s… He was George Washington's, they were both born in the same year. And Moses there is my Great-Great Grandpa, he's the oldest grave they found in Allegany County, on record. I mean it is on the stone that they could tell, he's the oldest one who is buried here so, that's where we started out from. Now, I don't know…
G.H.: His name was Moses?
J.A.: Moses he was, he was from New Jersey where they said the first come from. That's as far back as I know.
G.H.: Do you know what date that was?
J.A.: Yeah he died in 1803. Well that's the oldest grave on record 1803. They got the…
G.H.: Did they mine then?
J.A.: No, they didn't know what coal was. My Daddy always said my Great-Great-Grandpap give them the, to Koontz Coal, the biggest part of it, for a shotgun and a jug of whiskey. The whole thing, coal, millions of dollars worth of coal, but back then it wasn't nothing. I mean, they didn’t -I guess the shotgun and jug of whiskey were worth more than what he figured. Well the coal was not really discovered yet, so he just give it away for shotgun and a jug of whiskey, so they told me.
J.A.: And them was old saws they used to use in the mine.
G.H.: Quite an assortment of saws, too; don't you have. They used them to cut the timber, is that what?
J.A.: Yeah, years ago. You had to set timber all the time. Now they bolt the roof up. They don't set timber much anymore. They bolt the roof up. These are the modern lights here, the electric lights. Oh them's a checks for on the cars. Each miner, you never had a name, whenever you load the car you would put that on it. If your number's 35, and you load it, that's how they would pay you. When 35 came out, they would take it off the car and know who you were. Up here you can see where… they would just stick it on a place like this, I got a couple hanging on here. Here is what you would do, is just… stick them on there, but they are a different ones and some I just put on there. But you would just hang them on a car like that, and then when it went out they would take it off.
G.H.: Well this is wonderful, and shovels. An assortment of shovels.
J.A.: These are little vein shovels. They have strange handles for to be down low. See how straight that one is there, If it's straight you don't have to be up high. Now these here be more like shovels - standing up, you could stand up and shovel these. With them you worked on your knees, you was down on your knees when working with straight shovels. There is probably a lot more I didn't talk about.
G.H.: What was the community life like then?
J.A.: Well we usually went hunting. Everybody seemed like they hunted back then, I mean there was just a. . . Well I did too. Like we would go down to the mine, maybe we would only work three hours, if you only had 2 cars to load, if you had no more cars then you would go home. I'd get home maybe 11 o'clock, 10 o'clock, something like that. We never really worked a full day, I mean not from seven to three. We was always out of there at dinner time. We would go hunting there in the afternoon. It was a job and I enjoyed it; I mean it wasn't really a rat-race, it wasn't in no rat-race, put it that way.
G.H.: So you did your hunting in the afternoon, and the farming? Where did the farming figure in to this?
J.A.: Well, that was when you would be off in the summer time. Like the first of April you would shut it down and you wouldn't go back until September. You would have all of them 3 or 4 months to do farming.
G.H.: What did you grow on your farms then?
J.A.: Mostly just stuff to eat, you know, just home wheat or stuff like that. It wasn't big farms. Just something that tied you over, stuff you canned, we had hogs and that, and raised corn for the pigs, and chickens and sold eggs, and stuff like that. Butter, you would have cows.
G.H.: So you had animals?
J.A.: Oh yeah. Always had cows and horses.
G.H.: How many cows and horses did you keep?
J.A.: Well, we used to have four whenever I was going to school because I used to have to milk two of them every morning. My mother milked two and I milked two, and then I would have to get them that night and milk them again. Then she would make butter and sell it that, eggs.
G.H.: What school did you go to?
J.A.: Barton. Over in town here. It had 12 grades here then, it wasn't…
G.H.: Is the building still there?
J.A.: No, it’s been tore down. It's gone
Jack Ayers, Gail Herman
This photograph of John Ayers, on the right, was taken in 2000 by Dan Whetzel. The other men are Edwin Eckhart and Jim Phillips, inside the J. Ayers Mine, Potomac Hollow, Barton. The photograph was taken by Dan Whetzel, as part of his interview with Mr. Ayers for the Coal Heritage Trail, a cultural survey sponsored by Maryland Historical Trust, 2001.
Garrett College, McHenry.
Coal miners--Maryland--History; Coal miners--West Virginia--History; Garrett County (Md.)--History; Allegany County (Md.)--History.
Western Maryland, 1930-1980